Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Poem for the Birds


Today, actress, poet, and civil-rights activist Dr. Maya Angelou has passed away at age 86. She is one of the first poets I remember reading as a young child, and who gave me that surge of knowledge that her words were different, powerful, and beautiful. Here is my poem back to her*.

A Poem for the Birds

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky

          Bird! Do you see it?
          The sunset colored just for you
           the ripples in the new moon
          bring back ocean tide, and true
          dip down, fly high and swoon

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are chipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

          Sing mightily and large, Bird
          true songs only are sung here
          no ropes or strings or chains
          can suppress you, your trilling tears
          your song will last; hope remains

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

          Your door is now open,
           your freedom is real
           fly to your pinnacle
           you'll reach it yet, still.
           Bird, you're free now.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade wings soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

          Not think, but do; you can, you will
          go there, fly there, feast there, thrill
          on the morning of every new day
          You are free to fly as you please
          Loop up, dive down, explore, roam, play

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are chipped and his feet are tied 
so he opens his throat to sing.

          Not so, not here, no ties, no chains
          can prison your tender legs
          The cage door has been open
           at last, you're free Bird! Fly!
           No looking back.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of unknown things
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

           Let peace be in your breast
           Your voice is free to sing
           Join the chorus of all others now
           let hope gained propel your wing.
           Bird, you are free at last!
           Fly home, Bird, to your King!

*All italicized stanzas are from Maya Angelou's poem "Caged Bird", published in 1983. All other words are mine.

3 comments:

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Oh, Sarah. What a tribute! Thank you for sharing with me.

Debora Jo Earl said...

Beautiful tribute, Sarah. "sing mightily and large" my friend.

Debora Jo Earl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.